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Home / Articles / Columnists / On the Bright Side /  Getting Over Writer’s Block
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Thursday, September 1,2016

Getting Over Writer’s Block

By Jonna Shutowick. M.S. Ed.  


Staring at a blank page is a dreaded reality for writers. I have several projects in the works. I’m writing a children’s book, a novel, and researching other projects. At times it can be overwhelming, but not for the reasons you may think. I love research so much I could disappear in a library and never come out. I have enough journals and rough drafts to fill ten libraries. But seeing a manuscript to completion is my achilles heel. I love the reasearch; I love the writing process… What makes completing a project so difficult?

I took a writing workshop this summer that helped me realize that the only thing getting in the way of my writing was ME! I realized that I have been placing an enormous amount of pressure on myself to live up to expectations that a) likely do not exist, and b) have nothing to do with me. My problem revealed itself to me as I was taking a train across New York state toward the end of the summer.

Looking out the window at the old homes and mansions on the banks of the Hudson River, I was reminded of the rich history of the area: Franklin D. Roosevelt’s home; Frederick Vanderbilt’s mansion… The Mid-Hudson Valley carries New York’s DNA. As I rode the train, and looked out on the still pristine and largely untouched landscape through the Catskill Mountains, I thought about those who came before me riding on the same tracks: Sojourner Truth, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Dorothy Day, Eleanor Roosevelt… I share an undeniable kinship with these women, not only because I, too, was born there, but because I have always felt called to follow in their footsteps in some small way. Yet, I pale in comparison to my foremothers. In fact, my revolutionary soul actually feels guilty that I don’t live in a time where speaking out means risking my life. I feel called to write, but then doubt the importance of my own message.

Fortunately, I came across these words spoken by Barbara Kingsolver: “Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer.” Rather than feel guilty for my comfortable station in life, I can appreciate it and say a prayer of gratitude that I do not to live in an era (or an area of the world today) where I risk being jailed or killed for my beliefs. I can accept my calling as a passing of the pen, so to speak. I have stories to tell to my own generation. I have been given the beautiful gift of awareness of a true vocation. To waste it would be an insult to myself and my creator. I am a teacher of history and a promoter of having a positive outlook. How dare I question the value of that in any era? With my ego out of the way, the only thing stopping me is self-discipline to stick to a writing schedule.



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